What I learned teaching ‘Get Golf Ready’ to a world-class athlete

By Todd O’Neal, PGA, GM, Emerald Valley Golf Course
Published on

At first, I didn’t fully realize how amazing it would be to teach Get Golf Ready to a world-class athlete, such as track star Ashton Eaton.  Sure, in the beginning, it was exciting to meet the 2012 Olympic Decathlon Champion in person and teach him the game that I love…But what I didn’t know then was how much I would learn from Ashton, as well as enjoy the experience of working with him.

If a PGA Professional could ever work from a model, it’s Ashton, as he is a perfect specimen of power, quickness, flexibility and “mold ability” (with no physical limitations). Yet, even a gold medalist—who can run 100 meters in less than 10.5 seconds and then perform a perfect “Fosbury Flop” to win the high jump—was still uncomfortable on the golf course!  

I assumed that he’d find quick success due to his athleticism. Still, what surprised me (but maybe shouldn’t have) was how Ashton understood just as little as anybody else about both his comfort level and the intricacies of the game at the outset.  Even as a gifted athlete, he couldn’t skip the learning process. 

This realization helped me understand why coaching, guiding and leading his discovery in how to play the game was the most important aspect of the Get Golf Ready experience for Ashton—and for every other student I will have from now on! So, like many people, including millions who are far less physically gifted, Ashton’s improvement in the game will eventually come from repetition and coaching.  

Ashton and his friends who joined in with him seemed to really enjoy the Get Golf Ready classes.  As a group, we discussed how to:

1. Belong on the Course: I coached them to find answers on etiquette (where to stand, when to talk, where to walk...on the tee, green, etc.)

2. Be Comfortable: I guided them through golf’s “secret society” mine fields that are a major fear for almost every new player.

3. Be CompetentI also taught them to recognize that they are now properly equipped with the knowledge and basic skillset to call themselves a golfer, while giving them a roadmap to improve to the next level.

In all of my player development efforts, I’m looking to create more efficient opportunities for me and the PGA Professionals I mentor to serve as coaches of new and current golfers. In fact, this Get Golf Ready experience has inspired me to be more of a Coach, and less an Instructor.  That’s because I believe there are good “coaching models” out there, where I can adjust to fit the market and connect with great people who play and teach golf for the “win-win” benefit of their students, facilities, employees and families.

Todd O’Neal, PGA

GM, Emerald Valley Golf Course

Creswell, Oregon

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